Tag Archives: featured

I think this blog is about transition

5 Feb

I’ve made significant progress fighting anxiety in this new month. I sleep better (though still not enough) and I celebrate more. Instead of begrudging potentially losing my income, Aaron and I started to budget for it. What I learned from my January of self-pity is that transition hurts. And I think that’s what this blog is about.  How to recognize it, how to handle it, and how to move forward. Step one was to give myself permission to be sad. It took me until January 28 to finish writing my last post because I developed an “I can’t  deal with this right now” kind of headache with each attempted revision. When I finally wrote the not-making-fun-of-myself part of the entry, I started to cry. It hurt and I needed to feel it.

What a relief the rest of the weekend was. As Gretchen Rubin clarified for me, I became happier because I admitted I wasn’t happy.  The whole time Aaron was trying to cheer me up, I just wanted permission to be sad.

A child psychologist I saw on TV recently explained how to apply that same technique in dealing with a toddler tantrum. Simply acknowledging what the child is upset about can inherently calm him or her down. You don’t have to give in, just acknowledge.

I realized I’ve just compared myself to a creature that kicks and screams when it doesn’t get what it wants. But when we’re feeling hopeless, we’re all id. It’s not that much of a stretch.

I moved to Florida based on little to no research. I looked at home values a bit but most of my inquiry was into potential teaching positions in the local schools. I trusted my husband’s judgment on everything else since he had lived here temporarily while working on his master’s. I was a move-out-of-state virgin while Aaron was a pro. He may have attended college in his hometown but he followed that up with moving out of the country (Peace Corps), then to Colorado and Louisiana, then back to Virginia to meet me.

While I moved to different cities (okay, some were towns) in my home state, I never got enough continental wanderlust to jump ship for more than a vacation. A huge motivation behind this was to avoid changing everything at the DMV. Which moving-box-we-stuffed-in-a-closet holds my car title, again? Ugh.

Here’s the research I should’ve done, but neglected because I was planning my wedding, packing, and moving. And taking time to reflect on my crafting deficiencies. And without further self-centered linkage, here’s a bunch of statistics.

The median price of South Florida homes in December was $203,700, a decline of $11,000 from 2009. The market in Broward County, if you believe recent projections, won’t hit complete bottom until 2012. Fort Lauderdale values are still on the decline (-13.6% in 2011), which is worse than Phoenix (-12.8%) but better than Detroit (-15.1%). Topping the deflating market is Naples, FL, just around the peninsula from us, at -18.9 percent. This means buying a house on a tight budget might just be possible for this potentially one income family.

In contrast, $219,546 was the average price of homes in my former city of Richmond, VA. That sounds better until you consider that of the available properties on the market, the number of foreclosures almost matches the number of available houses.

Fannie Mae claims the median income for Broward County (2010-11) is $60,200. This was $13,000 lower than Richmond.

Virginians are fatter than Floridians but just barely (25.5 percent vs. 25.1 percent). We live across the street from Italians who coal fire everything on the menu. We just joined a new gym.

Other than the weather, South Florida’s biggest attraction is its diversity: everyone from everywhere moves to South Florida. Ten percent of all American Jews live here. Some have immigrated from Latin American countries, Arab nations, Russia, and even Israel. Unlike the rest of the Baptist-heavy South, Catholics comprise the majority of churchgoing Floridians. 16.7 percent of our population is Latino. That same percentage of the state’s people are internationally born. I know there’s a lot a fuss about immigration (some merited) but I teach many of these students: don’t fear them; learn from them.

Every 8th period, Columbian-born English learner “Juan” strides down the hallway sporting a faux-hawk and a smile and we repeat this exchange.

Me: [greeting him with a grin] “Juan!”

Juan: “Hey Teach-er!”

(He can’t pronounce my last name “Mullins,” since the sounds don’t make sense in Spanish.)

Juan is bright. He wants to learn. The light in his eyes when he does understand a concept hits me right in my gut. This is a kid who volunteered to read Ayn Rand out loud in class: he stumbled through some of the words and  his slow pace might have made some impatient classmates shuffle uncomfortably in their seats, but he finished that paragraph. I get self-conscious speaking my broken Spanish to him and he tells me not to worry, his English “no good, teach-er.”

He doesn’t have the luxury of choice I do.

He writes his essays in Spanglish and his eyes come alive when the topic allows him to write about his home village: the familiar, the comfortable, the known.

He’s in transition too.

Only he’s walking around with both hands tied behind his back.

And what am I so afraid of?

Sometimes being brave is easier when you have to.

Think about your major transitions. Please share in the comments how you adjusted and/or the lessons you learned. My ego desire to learn thanks you.

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Living in the now isn’t as easy as it looks

21 Dec

Google living in the now and you’ll find a slew of new-age sounding websites, one of which is actually named Radical Happiness, featuring spiritual teacher Gina Lake, author of several “books of awakening,” including

Living in the Now,

Embracing the Now,

(and in case you have anxiety about the now),

What About Now?

I’m not interested in such jarring happiness today, but thank you.

Less likely to recommend a raw food diet is Psychology Today who gives you six steps to the art of Now. I skimmed the article and it gives good advice but while I dabble in obsessing, I’m pretty good at savoring a moment. Actually, I might oversavor. But that’s another post.

I moved onto this UK Guardian article which claims we are happiest when we are present in the moment, not distracted, not daydreaming. According to a  study in the journal Science, we occupy nearly half of our time focusing on something else other than the current thing we are doing.

Except when we’re having sex. Then we give the task 90% of our attention. So even on the road to orgasm, 10% of the time we still get distracted by something else shinier.

And who told me this? Science. And you should believe science because they get paid just to be educated. That ALMOST makes me want to study science. I opted to pay for an education in words and marry science instead. So far it’s working out. As long as I live in THE NOW. Which I’m good at 90% of time.

My brain is a swirling journey of thoughts: sometimes they dart back and forth so quickly that it makes me dizzy; sometimes they meander through a field with some frolicking thrown in, and sometimes they jolt me awake like shock therapy. There is rarely a time when I’m not thinking something. Specifically overanalyzing something.

How it went. What it meant. What I should have said, done, thought; how I should have breathed, uttered, sighed, blinked, fidgeted differently.

This has been a detriment to parts of my life and something I reluctantly admit to having in common with Elizabeth Gilbert. I was finally making peace with this until I went to link to her website. She uses Comic Sans, and italic Comic Sans at that. How am I supposed to take her seriously now? I was so close, Liz, to being on your side. I still have a love/hate relationship with her memoir. Full disclosure: I ate and prayed with Gilbert, but didn’t get around to finishing the love portion, though do plan to this month. It’s only fair.

While I’ve been on the road to recovery from overanalysis for a couple of years now, I still struggle to live in the now as much as I’d like to.  I worry for example when the now will be over. And when it is, how will I adapt? What will I do when the euphoria ends? I’m often so busy preparing myself for the waning of happiness that I forget to consider it might be here to stay. Not every second. Not every day. But for the rest of my life.

Aaron and I get along extremely well. Too well, I feared. I kept waiting for that time when the dream would die. Then we read in The Five Love Languages that the honeymoon period lasts for two years. So we have exactly one year and eight months before we look at each other in disgust and dream of a better life.

Until then I’m pretty sure you hate us.

When we moved from Virginia to Florida, Aaron bought us matching “Virginia is for Lovers” aprons. As if that wasn’t barf-worthy enough, I baked a flippin’ pie.

My first pie: strawberry rhubarb. I don't even recognize myself here: Imposter!

I realize our circumstances are different : we moved 900 miles away from everyone we know. So at first, quite literally, we had only each other. So it was easier to be this gross.

I know plenty of women who define themselves by their food; however, I am not one of them.  I’m competent in the kitchen but if that’s all we’re measuring me by then better-than-average casserole it is!

But humility aside, that pie was damn good.

To keep things in perspective, here is something else that happened once we got married. This was Aaron on our wedding day:

And this was Aaron three months AFTER our wedding:

Do you think he’s trying to tell me something?

Someone’s been embracing too much of the now.

The very day this photo was taken we both got haircuts and Aaron shaved his beard for the first time since the wedding.

Hello, Michael Keaton's doppelganger

Shorter on the sides (Miami style)

The point of all these photos is to show what can happen when you go too far with this idea of “living in the now.”

If you take Aaron’s example, you could become a bear from the 70’s. If you take my example though, living in the now can stress you out. Right now I’m unsettled; I enjoy my new job but it’s tough making a new world for myself after being so deeply entrenched in my old one. If I fixate on the uncertainty of even whether or not I’ll have a job next year, I’ll never get past this. I have to both live in the now (and make it better, bit by bit), and look forward as to not drown in the disassociation one feels after being uprooted from a warm cocoon and thrown into an ice bath. It keeps getting warmer here, but when it’s still chilly I have to imagine the warmth; if I fixate on what happens in the imperfect moments, I’ll never survive.

And you know what Science has to say about survival of the fittest.